Review: Moana

Stone Hearts, Stolen Hearts


presented by j:

We get a double-dose of Disney Animation Studios this year with the release of Moana, on the heels of Zootopia. Fortunate for us, the House of Mouse’s newest princess (and first Pacific Islander/Polynesian one at that) does not disappoint.

The animation is beautiful, every nuanced glimmer of sunshine on a wave and fiber of Maui’s mane perfect in detail. The music is a stand-out too, with a score by Mark Mancina (Tarzan) and songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway’s Hamilton) and Opataia Foa’i. Songs “How Far I’ll Go” and “We Know the Way” deserve some Oscar consideration.

The story is both typical and atypical Disney all at once: a young hero on a journey to save her loved ones, but infused with Pacific Island culture and legend. As such, there is quite a bit of spiritual animism in play, and younger viewers could be disturbed by a couple of frightening scenes. The character of demigod Maui (voiced by Dwayne Johnson) is of particular note as we watch him grow from self-absorbed to selfless. However, foster/adoptive parents should be aware that his backstory could be problematic or a trigger for some kids.

It struggles at times in it tone, whether it wants to be clever or classic in its tone.Most of the time, it balances this bioolarism well, but there are moments where it staggers. While Moana is an entirely likable character, she doesn’t bring anything new to the table that we haven’t seen in other Disney princesses, minus her ethnicity. Overall, I prefer Zootopia, but I think I like it more than Frozen.

The message here is about the capacity and beauty of change, and more importantly, trying something new even when we are afraid it won’t work out. We are our worst enemy when we let fear isolate us like an island. The stormy waves may tower above us but the is always a way through if we wait it out. No one is perfect in Moana, not even the heroine, but everyone grows. Here we get to see stone hearts melt and stolen hearts returned. And I think it’s a valuable lesson for us all to remember we don’t have to be perfect, and that we don’t always have to fight in order to win.

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